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Wyngarde in 1976, by Allan Warren
|Born||Peter Paul Wyngarde
23 August 1928
|Occupation||Film, television actor|
Peter Paul Wyngarde (born 23 August 1928) is a French-born English actor best known for playing the character Jason King, a bestselling novelist turned sleuth, in two British television series: Department S (1969–1970) and Jason King (1971–1972).
Early life and career
He was born Cyril Goldbert in Marseille, France, the son of an English father and a French mother. His father worked for the British Diplomatic Service, and as a result his childhood was spent in a number of different countries. In 1941, while his parents were away in India, he went to stay with a Swiss family in Shanghai. The Japanese Army took over Shanghai's International Settlement on 8 December 1941, and as a British citizen Goldbert was interned in the Lunghua civilian internment camp on 10 April 1943. Conditions in the camp were sometimes harsh. According to J. G. Ballard's autobiography Miracles of Life, "Cyril Goldbert, the future Peter Wyngarde" was a fellow internee at Lunghua Camp and "He was four years older than me...". Ballard was born in November 1930 but according to Lunghwa Camp records compiled in 1943, Goldbert was actually born in 1928. His younger siblings, Adolphe Henry and Marion Simeone, were under Swiss protection and thus exempt from internment.
As a young man he went into acting and from the mid-1950s had various acting roles in feature films, television plays and television series guest appearances. One of these, a television adaptation of Julien Green's novel South (1959, originally Sud), in which Wyngarde featured in a lead role, is thought to be earliest television play with an overtly homosexual theme. In 1960 he played a lead role in the film The Siege of Sidney Street and appeared as Sir Roger Casement in an episode in the Granada TV's On Trial series produced by Peter Wildeblood. Wyngarde's film work was limited but had impact. In Jack Clayton's The Innocents (1961), he had brief (unspeaking) scenes as the leering Peter Quint with Deborah Kerr and Pamela Franklin. The following year he was the lead actor in the occult thriller Night of the Eagle.
By the late 1960s, he was a regular guest star on many of the popular UK series of the day — many of which were espionage adventure series — including The Avengers, The Saint, The Baron, Sherlock Holmes, The Champions, The Troubleshooters, Love Story, I Spy and The Man In Room 17. He also played the authority figure Number Two in The Prisoner ("Checkmate", 1967).
Wyngarde became a British household name through his starring role in the espionage series Department S (1969). His Jason King character often got the girl and as she is about to kiss him, he manages to avoid it, much to the annoyance of co-actor Joel Fabiani. After that series ended, his character, the suave womaniser Jason King, was spun off into a new action espionage series entitled Jason King (1971), which ran for one season (26 one-hour episodes). The quirky series was sold overseas and Wyngarde briefly became an international celebrity, being mobbed by female fans in Australia. A revival in October 1973 of The King and I, featuring Wyngarde in the male lead role, and initially with Sally Ann Howes as Anna, ran for 260 performances at the Adelphi Theatre in London.
Later life and career
In 1975, he was arrested, convicted and fined £75 for an act of "gross indecency" in the toilets of Gloucester Bus Station, which followed an arrest and caution for similar activities in the toilets at Kennedy Gardens in Birmingham the previous year. After the first incident, Wyngarde was interviewed for the News of the World and the Birmingham-based Sunday Mercury, and asserted that the arrest was due to a misunderstanding; in his defence after the second incident he claimed he had suffered a "mental aberration". Although it affected his image, particularly with his audience who largely identified him as the ladies' man Jason King, Wyngarde's homosexuality was actually well known in acting circles, where he was known by the nickname of "Petunia Winegum". From 1956, he had a ten-year-long relationship with fellow actor Alan Bates.
After losing his TV celebrity status, Wyngarde worked in Austria, acting and directing at the English Theatre in Vienna, and also in South Africa and Germany. He landed the role of General Klytus in the 1980 film version of Flash Gordon, and although his face was hidden behind a mask for the part, his distinctive voice is clearly recognisable in the film.
In 1983, he appeared in the thriller Underground opposite Raymond Burr at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto, and at the Prince of Wales Theatre, London. West End producer Marc Sinden, interviewed in the Daily Mail in 1994 said: "Truth was, in the mid-'70s, just after I left drama school, I based my 'look' on Jason King—hell, I even smoked the same cigarettes as him! They were Sobranie Imperials and incredibly hard to find, so I used to get them delivered to me by Fortnum & Mason. Then in 1983 I co-starred in a play with Peter [Wyngarde] and Raymond Burr. It was called Underground and we were in the West End after touring the UK and Canada. Peter wrote a filthy inscription to me on a packet of my Sobranies and we have been friends ever since! He still has incredible style."
During the 1980s and 1990s he made a number of TV appearances, including the Doctor Who serial Planet of Fire (1984), Hammer House of Mystery & Suspense (1984), The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1994) and the film Tank Malling (1989).
In recent years he has been a regular guest at Memorabilia, a cult, science fiction and sporting memorabilia fair at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. His most recent television appearance was as a guest of Simon Dee in the Channel Four one-off revival of his chat show Dee Time in 2003. In 2007, Wyngarde participated in recording featurettes for a reissue of The Prisoner on DVD, including a mock interview segment titled "The Pink Prisoner"; this material was released in the Prisoner DVD set issued in the UK in 2007 and in North America on both DVD and Blu-ray in October 2009.
A number of published references state that Wyngarde's real name is Cyril Louis (or Lovis) Goldbert. The now-defunct Hellfire Club official website described this as a myth that developed from his jokingly giving his uncle's name, Louis Jouvet, in an interview in the 1970s. However, J.G. Ballard and his family knew him as Cyril Goldbert when they were interned in Lunghua civilian internment camp during World War 2.
In 1970, Wyngarde recorded an album for RCA Victor entitled simply Peter Wyngarde, featuring a single, "La Ronde De L'Amour/The Way I Cry Over You". However, Wyngarde did not deliver a set of easy listening standards as might be expected, but a most unusual collection of spoken word/musical arrangements.
The LP is believed to have been quickly withdrawn after its release, but has gained cult status in the intervening years. Selections are often played on XM Radio's Internet-only retro-lounge channel 79, On the Rocks. Almost thirty years after its release, the album was reissued on CD by the British RPM Records label as When Sex Leers Its Inquisitive Head.
According to Wyngarde himself (quoted in the liner notes of the CD re-issue), prior to the RCA deal, EMI Records had also been interested in cashing in on his fame and suggested issuing an album of him performing a selection of Sinatra songs. However, RCA allowed him carte blanche, assuming that the record would be a failure and could be used by them as a tax loss. However, when the initial pressings quickly sold out and it showed a profit, they declined to press any more copies.
- "Come In"
- "You Wonder how these Things Begin"
- "La Ronde de L'amour"
- "Jenny Kissed Me"
- "Way I Cry over You"
- "Unknown Citizen"
- "It's when I Touch You"
- "Hippie and the Skinhead"
- "Try to Remember to Forget (Riviera Cowboy)"
- "Jenny Kissed Me and it Was..."
- "Widdecombe Fair"
- "Neville Thumbcatch"
- "Once Again (Flight Number Ten)"
- "Pay No Attention"
- Document FO 916/1345, The National Archives, Kew, England
- Civil Assembly Organization entry list, British Residents' Association, June 1943
- Ballard, J. G. (2008). Miracles of Life : Shanghai to Shepperton : an autobiography. London: Fourth Estate. ISBN 978-0-00-727072-9.
- Mark Brown "Newly unearthed ITV play could be first ever gay television drama", The Guardian, 16 March 2013
- Adrian Wright West End Broadway, Woodridge: Boydell Press, 2012, p.92
- Richards, Stephen (2003), Crime through time, Mirage Publishing, p. 294, ISBN 978-1-902578-17-0
- Lewis, Roger (28 June 2007). "'The minute they got close, he ran'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
- Otherwise Engaged: The Life of Alan Bates, Donald Spoto, Hutchinson, 2007
- British Theatre Guide, 1983
- Daily Mail Relative Values Angela Brooks 1994-12-06
- The regeneration game — TV repeats, The Times, London, 30 November 1991
- TV Review: Walking On The Wilde Side, Evening Standard, London, 17 July 2001
- Mr Showbiz Byline Chris Young, Evening Times, Glasgow, 6 April 2002
- Television: TV Heroes, The Independent, London, 23 January 2003
- FAQ at the Wayback Machine (archived August 18, 2003), Hellfire Club website.
- Peter Wyngarde Album on "Jason King's Groovy Pad"
- Cherry Red Records (Peter Wyngarde)
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